The year declines, and yet there is
A clearness, as of hinted spring;
And chilly, like a virgin’s kiss,
The cold light touches everything.
The world seems dazed with purity,
There hangs, this spell-bound afternoon,
Beyond the naked cherry tree
The new-wrought sickle of the moon.
What is this thraldom, pale and still,
That holds so passionless a sway?
Lies death in this ethereal chill,
New life, or prelude of decay?
In the frail rapture of the sky
There bodes, transfigured, far aloof,
The veil that hides eternity,
With life for warp and death for woof.
We see the presage—not with eyes,
But dimly, with the shrinking soul—
Scarce guessing, in this fateful guise,
The glory that enwraps the whole,
The light no flesh may apprehend,
Lent but to spirit-eyes, to give
Sign of that splendour of the end
That none may look upon and live.
Above the darkened house the night is spread,
The hidden valley holds
Vapour and dew and silence in its folds,
And waters sighing on the river-bed.
No wandering wind there is
To swing the star-wreaths of the clematis
Against the stone;
Out of the hanging woods, above the shores,
One liquid voice of throbbing crystal pours,
A stream of magic through the heart of night
Its unseen passage cleaves;
Into the darkened room below the eaves
It falls from out the woods upon the height,
A strain of ecstasy
Wrought on the confines of eternity,
Glamour and pain,
And echoes gathered from a world of years,
Old phantoms, dim like mirage seen through tears,
But young again.
“Peace, peace,” the bird sings on amid
“Peace, from the land that is the spirit’s goal,—
The land that nonce may see but with his soul,—
Peace on the darkened house above the floods.”
Pale constellations of the clematis,
Hark to that voice of his
That will not cease,
Swing low, droop low your spray,
Light with your white stars all the shadowed way
To peace, peace!
Out in the upland places,
I see both dale and down,
And the ploughed earth with open scores
Turning the green to brown.
The bare bones of the country
Lie gaunt in winter days,
Grim fastnesses of rock and scaur,
Sure, while the year decays.
And, as the autumn withers,
And the winds strip the tree,
The companies of buried folk
Rise up and speak with me;—
From homesteads long forgotten,
From graves by church and yew,
They come to walk with noiseless tread
Upon the land they knew;—